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Bryan and Casey use a variety of quick-growing vines, including Silver Lace vine, to create privacy around their city home.
Bryan and his wife Casey purchased a home in the heart of Burlington, Vermont, five years ago. At the corner of two streets, the home has close neighbors and frequent pedestrian traffic. But in their short time there, the creative couple has managed to build a small backyard retreat by planting privacy vines in all the right places. Bryan took me on a tour all around the home to point out the different areas where they've carefully placed vines to serve a purpose in their city garden.
The couple’s small yard, which is planted with our low maintenance No Mow Grass Mix, is adjacent to the parking lot for the multi-unit home. The area in between was planted with Cedar trees for privacy. But Bryan says the trees didn’t do much for privacy and were shading their entire yard, which made it hard to grow anything. “We ended up cutting them down and left the trunks at about 4’ tall,” Bryan explains. “I had some stainless steel cable to reuse and strung it along [the trunks], thinking it would make a neat fence and something for the vines to grow on.” Last season they planted a variety of Silver Lace Vines and Clematis Vines in this area.
Silver Lace Vine provides privacy between the tenant parking lot and Bryan and Casey's yard.
Bryan wasn’t happy with the growth last season so in early spring he added trellises to help the vines grow. “This year the vines went crazy,” says Bryan. “... two years in, it’s actually a dense planting that we can’t see through. Throughout the season we get flowers at different points, so the Silver Lace tend to be more towards the later season and Clematis is a little earlier. They overlapped at one point and it was really nice.”
The bees were constantly abuzz on the Silver Lace Vine blooms in early October.
Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators have had no problem finding the vines in the middle of the city. Dozens of bees buzzed to and from the Silver Lace Vine during my visit in early October.
The couple’s first attempt at creating privacy between their yard and the neighbors’ involved planting shrubs. They planted Forsythia and Elderberry Johns but Bryan says they became impatient with how long it would take for the shrubs to actually create a screen between the two yards. “I had noticed the one Silver Lace that we had planted there years ago needed more room to grow,” says Bryan. “My neighbor had put up a grass screen on his side of the property line, so the Silver Lace has happily gone crazy right across that. We also have Clematis that was planted two years ago on this property line.”
Silver Lace Vine and a young Elderberry Johns grow along a grass screen.
A mixture of vines, shrubs, and self-seeded wildflowers from plantings years ago line the edge of the lawn on the neighbor’s side. The vines are thriving along the grass screening, even in their second season.
A huge Maple Tree at the side of the home died suddenly several years ago and Bryan has since trained a Silver Lace Vine to climb up its stump. “I thought it would be cool to use the Maple Tree as a trellis to keep its amazing shape but also have something growing,” Bryan explains. “I gave it some help last year with white mesh to get it to grow up the trunk, but it didn’t go beyond that, so in the late winter I put deer netting all around the branches and this year it totally took off.”
Native Aster was blooming along the trunk of this tree in early October. The bees were loving it and the tall Silver Lace Vine.
A large window in their living space looks out at a busy sidewalk, so Bryan and Casey thought to create a natural screening for the window.
They built a wooden framework outside and planted honeysuckle along it several years ago. “We wanted privacy between our window and the sidewalk, while also having light pass through. It does a fairly nice job, at least in the summer, and it also helps the house not to heat up as much with the shade,” says Bryan.
A wooden frame and trellis help support a Honeysuckle vine that helps shade this window from the sidewalk just outside.
The last area that was open to the street from the yard is at the front of the house, where their entryway and front porch is. Bryan says they planted a Silver Lace Vine at the bottom of the fence a few years ago, but the fence really wasn’t tall enough to create privacy for the yard on its own. He wanted the vine to extend higher than the fence to add the extra seclusion. “Once the Silver Lace Vine started growing up the fence this summer, I got a couple of trellises to nail at the top of the fence and it just shot right up those,” he explains.
The vine now almost doubles the height of the fence itself and creates a living wall for privacy in the yard.
Bryan and Casey grow vines in their city garden for several reasons: he says that they would need to get a permit to put up a permanent fence in their yard, and that a fence would make them feel like they were “living in a box.” They looked into doing hedges and experimented with shrubs, but decided that all of that would take too much time to grow in and create real privacy. “We realized from watching a couple of these Silver Lace Vines that we put in a few years ago that they would do really well here,” says Bryan. “We could get practically near-instant gratification while having a screen up, it looked nice, and it comes back year after year.”
Bryan says they’ve pretty much packed their existing gardens full and are really focused on maintenance this fall. The next areas they have their sights set on are the hellstrips in front of their home. These green spaces in between the sidewalk and road are traditionally planted with grass, but Bryan and Casey would like to overhaul theirs with wildflowers and perennials. “Some of the varieties we’re thinking about adding this fall are Missouri Primrose, Soapwort, Gazania Colorado Gold, and Prairie Smoke. These are all shorter varieties, which makes them great for the [hellstrips] out in front of the home,” says Bryan.
Learn more about hellstrip gardening in our blog.
Bryan says one of the reasons he grows is to help pollinators. Bee seen on native Calico Aster underneath their Maple Tree.
“I grow to have a nice environment to sit in and relax in, says Bryan. “I like living in the city and being close to everything, but having green walls and privacy screens lets me still have a spot to be surrounded by nature.” Bryan adds that he also gardens to help out pollinators in his area.
“In gardening, I’m looking for function and low maintenance,” he says. “There’s limited time in the day; if I’m going to plant stuff here I want to spend my time enjoying the yard rather than maintaining it,” he says.